Roughly one in three individuals is highly susceptible to motion sickness and yet the underlying causes of this condition are not well understood. Despite high heritability, no associated genetic factors have been discovered. Here, we conducted the first genome-wide association study on motion sickness in 80 494 individuals from the 23andMe database who were surveyed about car sickness. Thirty-five single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were associated with motion sickness at a genome-wide-significant level (P < 5 × 10(-8)). Many of these SNPs are near genes involved in balance, and eye, ear and cranial development (e.g. PVRL3, TSHZ1, MUTED, HOXB3, HOXD3). Other SNPs may affect motion sickness through nearby genes with roles in the nervous system, glucose homeostasis or hypoxia. We show that several of these SNPs display sex-specific effects, with up to three times stronger effects in women. We searched for comorbid phenotypes with motion sickness, confirming associations with known comorbidities including migraines, postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV), vertigo and morning sickness and observing new associations with altitude sickness and many gastrointestinal conditions. We also show that two of these related phenotypes (PONV and migraines) share underlying genetic factors with motion sickness. These results point to the importance of the nervous system in motion sickness and suggest a role for glucose levels in motion-induced nausea and vomiting, a finding that may provide insight into other nausea-related phenotypes like PONV. They also highlight personal characteristics (e.g. being a poor sleeper) that correlate with motion sickness, findings that could help identify risk factors or treatments.
© The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press.